"I give snatches; I describe episodes; I make—as it were—snapshots in time; I reflect personal recollections, thoughts, experiences, and views of specific individuals.." those are the words of Marius Broekmeyer the author of Stalin, the Russians, and Their War, 1941-1945. This line represents the main idea of the book and its thesis. The author is providing the reader with authentic memoirs and thoughts of people who lived through that horrible war and thus he is taking the reader closer to the battle field than ever.
This book was not written to show readers specific battles or military engagements of the Soviet Union in WWII, but it was meant to be a mirror of feelings experienced by Soviet people during long years of hunger and suffering. The author has collected more than a thousand actual official records written by almost five hundred persons in order to illustrate as vividly as possible horrifying impact which war had on ordinary Soviet people. Obviously such approach makes the book more believable, as the author himself is not a former Soviet Union citizen and thus cannot relate completely to their lives. Therefore personal accounts of participants and also spectators, although all people were a part of the bloody mess, give a more profound truthful and authentic idea of what was really happening behind the iron curtain.
The variety of viewpoints from people of different classes and occupations provides a deeper understanding of situation during war period. The fact that Broekmeyer left collected data without almost any interpretation offers a strong evidence and trustworthy source for investigation of war as the Soviets have seen it. The author relies basically on this information entirely and presents it to the reader in such a vague state that the reader has to interpret data individually. Clearly this technique has strong and week sides at the same time. People who are unfamiliar with the history of Soviet Union and war time would probably find it difficult to understand such collection of personal horrifying stories in terms of history that was being built at that time. Readers will be able to only relate to the emotional aspect of the book without support of historical facts that the author does not eagerly provide. It is important to note that Broekmeyer did not intend to write a purely historical work enumerating bold facts, but rather portray war from the point of view of Soviet nation. No other people in the world got to experience Nazism from their native government; this emotional despair that was present throughout military years was hanging over a huge country and caused more suffering than the Germans.
Unsystematic anthology of memoirs does not satisfy historical requirements and lacks a balanced and logical structure. This is a major weakness of the book, which however does not make it less appealing in a sense of genuine facts and their variety for those seeking opinions from “the other side”. Although, as was already said, this works is short of perspective view and does not give an explanation of how this Soviet war impacted the rest of the world, it does submerge the reader into the realm of fears and hopelessness that were reality for Soviets as a separate nation. The pages of the book represent diary of a huge country in struggle with the Germans as well as Soviet doctrine. By writing in the language of emotion the author omits many important political facts that would be essential in a historical work. On the other hand, the possibility of seeing this war through eyes of witnesses leads to a more objective outlook on problems that Soviets were experiencing.
The initial idea of the author to show how horrible WWII was for the Soviet people is definitely well illustrated in the course of examination of first-hand accounts. On their basis he proves that WWII in other counties was completely different from that same war that was taking place on the territory of Eastern Europe. A great literary value of Stalin, the Russians, and Their War, 1941-1945 rests in the minds of common people as it was taken from real life. Historical events could only be guessed in personal tragic accounts but such was the ultimate goal of the book and the author did succeed in portraying WWII in his unique way.